The transition from the end of the school year to the beginning of summer can be a good time to pause and take stock of our emotional and mental state. While the past year may have been exhausting, summer can be a time of renewal. We may still have commitments and responsibilities to which we still need to attend, but the shift in routines can offer opportunities to rebuild our energy, replenish our reserves, and ready us for the fall.
However, without some thought and a plan, the summer can slip away without our having taken full advantage of what this time of the year can offer. Now is a good time to think about what will make this summer one that leads to renewal, refocusing, and restoration. One way to approach this opportunity is to think “5-4-3-2-1″ to prioritize our planning and give us a focal point. Here is an example we can use to get started.
Make a list of the five things for which you are most grateful. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to many draining and harmful emotions. Even in challenging times, we have much for which we can be grateful. Gratitude focuses our attention and emotions on others and what they mean to us rather than being self-centered. We can review this list periodically during the summer to remind us of what is positive and important in our lives. We may even add items as we become aware of additional people and circumstances for which we can be grateful.
Identify four people with whom you want to connect or reconnect. Summer is a great time to widen our network of friends and expand our relationships. Relationships can also be great sources of support as we navigate uncertain and unpredictable times. We can give priority to the people we find interesting, optimistic, creative, or just fun to be around. Reaching out to an old friend or colleague can restore a connection that has been important to us. Developing new or existing relationships can give access to new ideas, perspectives, and insights.
Decide three things you would like to learn. Learning can be a great energy refresher, especially when what we are learning is our choice and serves purposes important to us. The learning can be personal or professional, or it could be a combination of both. We might choose to learn a skill that leads to a new hobby. We might pursue an area of long-standing interest. We might explore some new technology or develop a new instructional strategy or approach. The key is to stay fresh and enjoy the experience of learning.
Eliminate two sources of stress. Some stressors are beyond our control, and we need to focus on managing how they will impact us. Others are within our control to push aside or remove. As examples, social media accounts that have us “doom scrolling” and news sources that are overly political and negative might be left behind. We can also consider stressors such as unrealistic expectations we hold for ourselves and our inner critic that constantly engages us in negative self-talk. Stressors drain energy and challenge our outlook. Removing even a few negative stressors can make a big difference in our attitude and well-being.
Commit to forming one new habit. By choosing just one, we will be better able to focus on, track, and build success for that habit. For example, we might decide to form an exercise habit. Summer can be a great time to get into a routine that will carry through into the next school year. We might think about routines that can make our lives easier and more manageable, such as tackling the most difficult challenges first or starting each day by doing something that builds energy and gives us satisfaction. Or we might choose something as simple, but important, as having more conversations and dialogue with people we respect and from whom we can learn. The possibilities are endless.
This approach may seem simple—and it is. However, by being intentional and planful with the time we have away from the school year routine, we can restore our energy, rebuild our spirit, and create resources on which we can draw as we approach a new year.